Although it's easy to admire what [Coppola] was attempting to do with Youth Without Youth, the movie fails on such a thorough and complete level that to call it a noble attempt isn't really fair: It's really a colossal miscalculation.
Not so much a bad movie as a dispiritingly unnecessary one (especially by a once-great director), Youth Without Youth ultimately boils down to a long, autumn stroll around the block to a place everyone winds up at some time or another.
While a movie doesn't have to make literal sense to be good, a filmmaker can't be so lost in his own universe that he forgets his job is to open it out to the rest of us. And that, apparently, is what has happened to Coppola here.
The movie has been labeled 'stilted,' 'soporific,' and 'a pretentious, meandering mess.' But you certainly couldn't call it conventional, predictable, or pandering. This film is stubbornly, almost insanely, itself.
I don't want to say this thing is complicated, but Tom Stoppard just called to beg for an explanation.... I apologize for all the elements I'm leaving out, but my editor ordered me to keep this piece under 40 million words.
Borderline incomprehensible and often exasperatingly arty, Youth Without Youth is nevertheless a movie that, somehow, successfully conveys a great deal of heartbreak. It's a personal film in the best and worst senses.
Even ace editor Walter Murch struggles to give coherence to the professor's fractured, episodic journey through darkening wartime exile in Geneva, to the brighter revelations of '50s India and the sun-kissed Mediterranean.
Handsomely made on a low budget, the film has the polished look of a Coppola film with expert contributions from some master craftsmen. But the story is full of arcane references that many will find nonsensical, and the performances are a letdown.